Asian countries are not doing enough to tell people whether the water they use for drinking, farming, and fishing is polluted or dangerously toxic, a report from the World Resources Institute finds.
The report, Thirsting for Justice: Transparency and Poor People's Struggle for Clean Water in Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand (82 pages, PDF), examined vulnerable communities' access to water pollution information and found that while industrial facilities annually release upwards of four hundred million tons of hazardous pollutants into the world's waters, secrecy around the amount and type of chemicals discharged is still the norm, especially in Asia. The report also found that while governments have passed "Right to Know" laws that protect citizens’ rights to environmental information and mandate public disclosure of such data, officials in many countries are failing to live up to their legal obligations.
Thirsting for Justice analyzes data from state-of-the-environment reports, water quality monitoring portals, and other public databases to assess the availability of pollution information that governments are legally obligated to disclose. The report, which also tracked a hundred and seventy-four information requests submitted by local community members and includes information based on interviews with nearly a hundred and fifty people about the barriers they faced when trying to access pollution data, concludes that even when governments do release environmental data, officials often provide the information in ways that make it difficult for community members to access or understand.
"Governments' failure to provide water pollution information is an environmental injustice," said Elizabeth Moses, author of the report and an environmental democracy specialist at WRI. "Without it, poor, marginalized communities cannot participate in decision making, let alone hold governments and more powerful corporations accountable for contaminating their local water sources."